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‘Āina-Based Learning at Saint Louis School, HI.

Laura Koonce, Vice President of Mission & HR and Ministry Lead of Marianist Encounters at Saint Louis School, Honolulu, HI, shares this article from the summer issue of the school's magazine.

Tim Los Baños, Principal, Saint Louis School

‘Āina-based education is currently entering its fourth year of schoolwide implementation as one of the prominent facets of Saint Louis School’s curriculum. Bringing indigenous knowledge to our students has brought a sense of connection as well as pride to the school community, further emphasizing the value of Kalaepōhaku as more than a common symbolic origin of this diverse student body from all corners of the globe. This special place now becomes rejuvenated by hands-on learning activities in the waters, earth, and skies that embrace it. A number of formerly idle spaces on campus have transformed into functioning examples of applied sciences, among them our organic agricultural operations adjacent to the Class of 1953 Pavilion, as well as riparian maintenance and restoration areas along the Pālolo stream. Cultural studies are also thriving as students are guided into rediscovering tidbits of our school history and evidence of pre-contact Hawaiian activity on this campus.

Water-Wise Greenery for a Native Environment

As part of Saint Louis’ commitment to attaining the goals of Pope Francis’ Laudato Sí encyclical document, an ambitious campaign to replant the campus with species that had likely grown here prior to western contact is underway, progressing inconspicuously as native plants begin to appear and establish themselves in a number of pilot projects. Several species of endemic hibiscus, the sacred lehua, as well as drought-tolerant a‘ali‘i, loulu palms, Oahu carex, pōhinahina, kupukupu, and pili are among the plantings in the campus landscape restoration areas. The process is long and challenging, with an expected share of fatalities from soil pathogens, thrips, plant viruses, and other natural ailments. However, the survival rate is now surpassing the casualties with lots of TLC from students and volunteers.

Eat What You Reap

Saint Louis’ organic agriculture program is progressing nicely with the mana’o of Jon Watase ’06, who does multiple jobs during the week between Kalaepōhaku and the North Shore, where he cultivates and processes healthful mamaki on his days off. Jon has also brought awareness of plant-based proteins to the hands-on learning activities in the elementary grades through the cultivation and harvesting of soybeans (edamame) and pigeon peas (gandules). Propagation of year-round crops such as papaya, chili pepper, liliko‘i, and various herbs have thus far proven successful on a small scale as Jon projects to enable classes to expand production and hopefully retain the basics of entrepreneurship in the process. The ‘imu on campus has been burning more frequently since the lifting of pandemic restrictions as the Hui Aloha ‘Āina club of students in grades 6-12 has learned to value this tradition and method of food preparation that is not dependent on imported fossil fuels.

Pictured from top left to right: 1. The Hui Aloha ‘Āina club learning to prepare an ‘imu at the garden on campus. 2. Middle school biologist excited to find a healthy example of the O‘opu Nākea which was released immediately after this photo. 3. These native plants beautify the campus as well as serve its purpose for student identification and Hawaiian studies.


'Āina = Land

Kalaepōhaku = refers to the land/hill that is home to Saint Louis School and Chaminade University

Source: Red & Blue, The Magazine of Saint Louis School, Summer 2023

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Thomas Spring
Thomas Spring
Oct 06, 2023

Good going, Laura!! The whole magazine was a very good, too!!

Aloha e pule, Bro. Tom Spring, SLC '51


Dear Laura and students, I admire your work and effort at bringing indigenous life alive in so many ways! Thanks for showing the rest of us how to do it!


Great story about really great work at SLS. Mahalo

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